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How to Stay Healthy at Work

One of the biggest contributors to obesity is a sedentary lifestyle.  We sit while we eat, when we’re watching television, at our desks at work, and when we catch up with friends.  Add some stress from the workplace into the mix and it’s no wonder why many of us are overweight, or weigh more than we’d like.

Use these simple tips to ensure you can keep off the unwanted pounds, stay healthy at work, and continue ever forward on your journey towards better health.

Don’t Drink Your Calories

Many people (myself included) love and need to start their day with caffeine.  Coffee is fine, but those caramel blended Frappuccinos or similarly sugar-filled drinks will make it downright impossible to stay in shape.  Instead of the dessert-like blended drinks, try a green or black tea, or even a black coffee.  If you don’t find black coffee too appetizing, try adding a bit of cinnamon – it works wonders.  If that combination is still too much to handle, try adding a splash of cream, but leave the sugar aside.

Sugary Drinks

Drink Water Throughout The Day

Keep a large bottle of water on your desk.  Fill it up.  Drink it.  Rinse and repeat.  It is a pretty simple concept, but even just having water in plain sight and within arms reach will substantially increase your water consumption.  If you want some variety, add a bit of lemon, lime, grapefruit, or carbonation to your water.  Worried about the increased number of trips to the bathroom?  Guess what, that’s a bit more exercise you would not have gotten in otherwise.  Often times when we snack, it’s actually because we’re dehydrated, not hungry.  So make it a priority to continually drink water throughout the day.

Take Short Breaks

Ideally you are utilizing a standing desk and trying to sit as little as possible, but if that is not the case or a standing desk is not available, take intermittent pauses in your day to take a stroll around the office, down the street, or up and down the stairs.  I’m personally a big fan of walking meetings.  If there is a meeting that does not require the use of in-office technology or the use of a whiteboard, try to have the meeting while walking around the block.  It gets you out of the office into fresh air, and lets you get a bit of exercise in during your workday.

Stopwatch

Pack Your Lunch

Think veggies, fats, and lean meats.  Ideally grass-fed / free range / wild caught, but that’s a whole different conversation. The key takeaway is that when you pack your lunch, you know exactly what you are ingesting, how fresh it is, and where it comes from.  Not only will it help you look better, feel better, and perform better, it also will be a bit easier on the wallet when compared to eating pricey takeout from the restaurants around the block.

Exercise Regularly

A great way to achieve this is by building it into your schedule.  You don’t even need to go too crazy, you just need to go consistently.  It is not about what you do, it’s about consistency.  Weight lift, run, practice yoga, take dance classes – whatever physical activity you prefer, just make sure it is something that you can do on a regular basis.  If possible, try to get some exercise during your lunch break at work, then eat at your desk afterwards.  It will break up your day, and you may even notice a newfound energy throughout the rest of the afternoon.

Snack Healthy

I love snacking.  I could eat dark chocolate and candy bars all day, but I opt for the healthy snacks.  Try a piece of fruit, a handful of mixed nuts, some carrots, or some yogurt and granola.  Ideally you want to keep the snacking to a minimum, but that is not always possible.  When you do feel that urge, go for the healthy choice.  Often times, realize that the snacking may actually be out of boredom, not out of hunger.  If that is the case, refill that water bottle we talked about earlier and take a quick stroll to clear your head.  You will find yourself back in that productive workflow in no time.

healthy snacks

Sit less, stand more, reward your body with healthy and nutritious food that will serve you, and get some exercise in each day.  If you cannot pronounce the ingredients it probably doesn’t belong in your body. It sounds simple, but it comes down to all the small choices you make on a daily basis.

The key to making these lifestyle changes is keeping your eyes on the bigger picture – your personal well being; realizing that it is all about the journey rather than any one destination.  Make changes and improvements continually along the way, and you’ll find your fitness and wellness goals are easier to achieve.

Meditation and Mindfulness – Why You Should Start

Meditation. When you hear the word, does it bring up imagery of tie-dye, long hair, and questionable hygiene?  How about cross-legged practitioners wearing flowing robes and chanting with eyes closed for hours on end.  This may be what comes to mind when you think of meditation, or what media has led you to believe, but there are plenty of reasons to change that perception.

Meditation is a practice that’s been around for thousands of years, and has been present in nearly every civilization around the world.  It has has substantial health benefits, and is something anyone can practice.  Scientists at Harvard studied the affects of meditation over a two week time frame, and found it to measurably increase the amount of grey matter in the hippocampus, the area of the brain that is closely associated with learning and memory.

The Benefits of Regular Meditation and Mindfulness

In addition to improving the capacity for learning and memory, meditation has a whole host of benefits; they’re right at your fingertips.  It’s been known to decrease depression, pain, and stress.  Meditation benefits practitioners by instilling a greater sense of life satisfaction.  It fosters a peaceful and calm demeanor that’s noticeable throughout the day, and can help you with more control, presence, and awareness with all of your thoughts and emotions.

What is Meditation Anyways?

There are plenty of ways to go about it, but at the very core, meditation is the act of sitting calmly and quietly, clearing your mind, and focusing on your breathing.  When thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge them, then slowly let them pass.  Some folks like to chant a mantra over and over to stay focused, others prefer to pay close attention to their breathing.  Some meditators sit cross legged on the floor, others sit comfortably on their beds or in their desk chairs.

The great news is there’s no right or wrong way to meditate, it’s a very personal and subjective experience.  There’s no need to worry about posture, position, or what you’re wearing.  Try to find a method that is enjoyable, and is easy to build into your schedule for the day.   

Start Small

small ladybug

Commit to dedicating just two minutes per day.  Within the first hour of waking in the morning is a great time to do it, and so is in the evening before bed.  How about right now.  Let’s silently meditate for two minutes together right this very moment.  Sit back in your chair so you’re in a comfortable position.  Take a few deep breaths, and let your eyes slowly close.  Focus on your breathing, and just contently sit in place for two minutes.  Do it now.  Breath in deeply through your nose, and out slowly through your mouth.  Count your breaths slowly up to ten, then count back down.  Pay attention to any aches and pains in your body, any signals that might be getting sent, signals that you may be ignoring in your day to day life.  Relax and clear your mind, and just sit contently in place.

Am I Doing it Right?  Don’t Worry!

One of the easiest pitfalls is when practitioners worry whether or not they’re meditating correctly.  Don’t get caught up in this trap, because there really is no right or wrong answer.  Just go through the motions, and focus on the process and the journey, rather than a specific outcome.  The benefits of meditation come through consistent practice over a longer time frame, so learn to appreciate the couple minutes of peace and calm.  Focus on your breathing, try to quiet the voices in your mind, and pay attention to how your body feels as you relax and meditate.

Come Back to Your Center

When you’re meditating, it’s inevitable that your mind will start to wander.  Learn to be aware of these tangential thoughts, and come back to your peace and calm.  Think of each time your mind starts to wander as a chance to practice self awareness.  Acknowledge the thoughts as they come up, then let them slowly pass.  Each time you are able to become aware of your wandering thoughts, and refocus on breathing and clearing your mind, it gives your brain more control and awareness.

ocean
Be the Observer of Your Thoughts

You are not your thoughts, you are merely the observer.  A metaphor that’s always helped me, is to think of your mind as a vast ocean.  Envision it as you meditate.  The ripples and waves on the top level of the water are your thoughts, but you go much deeper than that.  You are not your thoughts.  You are the vast body of water, that goes seemingly infinitely deep, and spans for miles and miles, farther than the eye can see.  Sometimes there’s a quiet peace and calm, and the water may be still as glass.  Other times, there may be a torrential downpour with tidal waves that could capsize an ocean freighter.  Quietly observe, and come back to your center each and every time.

Smile and Be Grateful for the Moments of Calm

smiling man

Whether you set an alarm each time you meditate, or you end your practice when it feels right, take a few moments to reflect on the experience.  Smile.  Breathe deeply.  Say something you’re grateful for, it can be big or small.  Today you woke up happy and healthy.  You have a community of family and loved one that care about you.  You dog was excited to see you in the morning.  There is so much to be grateful for all around us.  Meditation helps us focus on the blessings we have all around us, and helps us live with more appreciation and gratitude throughout the day.  Learn to appreciate the time that you dedicate for your practice, because it’s a time that’s truly yours, and will help your mind and body become more aware and present throughout your waking life.

Resources

There are tons of resources out there that can help you get started, or refine your practice and take it the next level.  A few of them which I personally recommend because I’ve used them consistently, are:

ZenHabits

Headspace